The legacy of Trees and Assisted Living

When I think of a legacy, I think of trees.  That word “legacy” came to my mind a lot as I checked my father into assisted living last week.

With trees it is reasonable to conclude that the tree will outlive the planter.  It is common for someone to visit their childhood home and discover the trees they planted in their youth are now majestic and dominate the landscape.

Trees provide more than the eye can see.  We all know that birds and bugs live in them. We also get shade from them.  Beyond what we can see, we also know that there are microscopic critters that live their lives in the roots below and in the limbs above, participating in the circle of life.

The majesty of a tree outlives the tree, itself.  Even after a great tree’s death, life continues to originate from that tree.  The leaves that have fallen become the dirt below the limbs, and in many instances, new trees succeed the older, stately trees, living their early years in the shadows of their majestic parent.

Memory of specific trees endure in our minds after they are gone.  I have memories of apples trees that I used to climb and eat from, in real time.  No washing off the germs/bugs, no de-worming…just pick and eat.  That plot of land that the apples trees flourished on has long since been overrun, but the legacy of those trees will always be in my mind.

I find that that my parents are like trees, only we get to see them go through their lifespan, in real time, and we get to see the changing from majestic to frail and brittle.

It hurts to watch this evolution happen.  The legacy of aging parents transcends generations.  Human  culture get passed through to the next generation in the same way that a majestic tree fades as its life comes to an end.

During the last few years, I have watched both my father and my wife’s father fade.  Both need assistance to address everyday life functions that they used to take for granted.  It is overwhelmingly sad that they aren’t going to achieve anything else in their lifetimes.  The days of accolades and discovery are events of their past, not the future.

I see their legacy as they share and relive their lives in the stories they tell.  Yet, there was a time when each of them was a young(er) men, full of vigor, trying to apply 1 Corinthians 9:24 to their lives.

In that part of Corinthians, Paul tells us in reference to how to live our lives that we should “Run in such a way as to get the prize…They do it to get a crown that will not last….”

My fathers’ ran their races and won crowns from years as captains of industry.  Those crowns are now gone.  They did not last, as predicted.

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Driving my father to assisted living

This will be me, one day.  I will not earn trophies, set new personal records or beat the generation below me.  Yes, this, too, shall be me, one day. It shall come to pass that I will be feeble and in denial that I offer nothing to society other than my story.  Perhaps I will continue writing in my later years and stories like this will be part of my legacy.

Hopefully, as long as it is my body to control, I will be running in the woods and riding a bicycle in the mountains till the day I die or can’t, whichever comes first.  But, I might not be that fortunate.  I, too, may find myself consuming the time of people I love with stories of medicine and doctor visits as they politely listen.  It is possible that my own cognitive decline will start to impact others, taking their time and resources to address.  Again, they will be polite as they try to help.  More likely than not, I will be like them and falsely wait, thinking that the next doctor’s visit will be “the one visit” in which all of my problems are explained and addressed, as a plan gets created to get me back to normal.

My fathers bring me back to thinking about trees.  I would like to be a like a tree that has a few seeds fall and become saplings that like to listen to my stories of what life was like “back in the day.”

Living the abundant life is inseparable from using your gifts.  When you can’t “use” your gift, you pass on stories about your gifts to those willing to listen.  It is too bad there are not a lot of listeners to the gifts that remain with our legacy population like my fathers.  I find that I really like listening to their legacy stories.  As I meet the others in his assisted living facility, I find that I like their stories, too.

Well, some of them…

What will your story be?

Who will listen?  Will they be sitting next to you or at the end of a communication tool like VR?

Think about it.

 

 

The Big Adventure

Reading is a part of my morning.  Doesn’t matter where I end up in life-there is something for me to read.  Living in a large log home has some serious benefits when you are the first one up.  In the winter time, I light a fire, grab a blanket and read words for my soul and my mind.  In the summer, I sit outside of our bedroom and try to catch up on all the magazines and items that are on my “to read” list while the sun rises.  The dog sits next to me on the nearby couch and goes back to sleep as I get lost in the stories.

Reading is precious time.  It is from these times that I get ideas for Big Adventures.  My first Big Adventures started as nothing more than vacations with detailed plans.  As I have matured, they are more like outlines of rest stops on a ride across America.

You see, the story behind the Big Adventure isn’t the adventure.  The story is that you start at one end and when you come out the other side, you are a different person.  That “different person” is more mature and has added new thoughts to his or her identity.

If life is a menu at a restaurant, our better adventures add entirely new cuisines to our menu.  It is like adding an “Italian” section to our Greek menu.

Too often, we confuse mundane adventures with Big Adventures.  In the Big Adventure category are items that take REAL efforts to achieve.  Oftentimes, we equate the amount of money we spent with our effort levels, and we fail to see that the size of the credit card charge is not related to the size of the adventure.

Before we know it, we have spent a lot of money, taken little risk and only change a little.  These partial deviations from our comfort zone create nothing more than additional desserts on the menu of life that seldom make it to the critics’ must try lists.

For me, joining the Peace Corps added a couple of pages to my menu, as did becoming a focused athlete, joining the Scouting movement, and accepting Jesus as my God.

At work, one of my friends is in the middle of a Big Adventure.  She is not even halfway through her preparation for a Spartan Race, and she is already reaching new spaces.  I am blessed to get to play a small role in her Adventure, and I am one of many people who are watching the different person come out the other side.  In essence, we are watching a wine list get added to the menu in real time.  See below.

JD Runs

 

Getting people to see that there are more interesting items than their current selection of thoughts and experiences is my life’s mission.  No single greater reason pushes me to get out of my comfort zone.

We all know people who sincerely think they are adding variety and value to their own lives by seeking out and finding a new restaurant.  That is sad.  Go add to your own menu, instead.

Take some risk and create a Big Adventure.  You never know who might be watching.

 

 

 

Sloth vs. Laziness

sloths_miniI am resting this week, giving my body time to heal not only from all the training that I have been doing but also all the travelling.

That means that I can’t truthfully state, “I am so busy,” when people ask me what I have been up to.  Concurrent with this discovery that I am not so busy, I came face to face with a brief article and a video regarding sloth.  Before I finished reading the articles, I could see myself.  It hurt, but it was enlightening.  Here is what I found.

“Busy” is as common an answer to “how are you doing?” as any other answer nowadays.  When we tell someone that we are busy, we do two things.  First, we feel that we are being honest, in that we really ARE being honest.  No one says, “busy” if they don’t think that they are.  However, the 2nd event that occurs when we tell someone we are busy is that we tell them, “we are using our time and our resources to get the most out of life and engage in the most number of events and activities that we can.”  Socially, this is a great strategy to get a “thumbs up,” response from the listener.  No one likes a lazy person.  We equate sloth with laziness, unemployment, retirement, and the like.  Busy is translated as making a positive impact to society.

Sloth, though, is not the same thing as lazy, and it is not the opposite of busy.  Sloth means “without care,” from the Latin word acedia.

I have never considered myself to be a sloth.  Then, again, until I read these stories and watched the video, I wasn’t sure what slothfulness looked like, outside of my elementary school definition of the word.

What does a Sloth look like?  First off, they are careless.  They don’t finish what they start.  They don’t take care of items that are important to them.  They don’t take care of relationships.  They don’t take care of their bodies.

They have dreams, though.  They think that they work “smart,” and don’t realize that they are not living up to their potential.  They are leaving God’s gifts unused.  Think of the story of the talents.

Sloths are addicted to things other than what God intends. We have never heard of anyone getting addicted to listening to the radio, yet we all know people who are addicted to TV/Netflix/Youtube.  I don’t really know why that is true, but those addictions and binge-watching events that we participate in are a form of sloth.  They are not just “resting times,” but times when we are not making a difference in anyone’s lives.

Sloths are resistant to act without prompting.  A sloth is, by definition, a procrastinator.

Sloths are discouraged at signs of difficulty.  The unknown scares the sloth, even if the unknown is a good thing.  There first though when presented with the unknown is a “what if,” response, even if the words are kept to themselves.

ZWVERp1As I taught this to the staff at my company last week, I could not help thinking that I am being a hypocrite.  I see now that the intensity and volume of my exercise and my success competing and sharing what I have learned with others had misled my view of self.  Sure, everyone CAN do better, but my CAN do had become too comfortable to me.

 

I decided it was time to address my sloth!  On Monday afternoon, I started coming to terms with the reality that I have a multiplicity of relationships that I have not nurtured the way that I should have.  This is not limited to traditional “family and friends” circles.  I have professional contacts whom I said I would get back to but haven’t. I have friends whom I have wanted to call but haven’t.  Sloth is overcome by action, but I wanted to enlist God, first.

I prayed for discernment.  I feel like I got it.  I had a professional contact whom I only barely know break down and cry on me at an event this week.  I called her and have been praying for her since.  No, she hasn’t returned my call, but she was placed in my life for a reason.  In another instance, some friends in Texas burdened my heart while driving home from an event.  I quickly sent them a message, asking, “why are you guys on my heart, right flipping now?”  Keep in mind that I hadn’t talked to either of them in 6 months.  The answer I got was, “well, could be that is the date that our baby is due.”  There is no way I could have known that she was due that day.

Earlier this week, I met a woman whom I could tell was looking for great connection.  During our first meeting, I discovered she was looking for new employment in a place where she could make a greater difference.  She was 40 and married but didn’t have any children.  She desired fitness but didn’t have a plan or mentor in place to help her get to where she dreamed to be.  Yet, she had Nepal on her bucket list.   I invited her to join me in Nepal in 2020.  Although we haven’t talked since, she has been on my mind.  Indeed, I have her name and number, handwritten on a flowery sticky note next to my keyboard.  Relationships that mean something create action, not just good feelings.  I had lost that in my busyness.

Lastly, I committed to getting back to dating my wife.  We are going to do whatever she wants tonight, which probably means working in the garden.  We love doing that.  We haven’t done it in a few weeks.  I love walking around with her, dreaming of future projects together.

Carelessness takes many forms.  More than likely, you, too are careless.  Get out of the sloth bucket with your fitness and don’t settle for the same workouts.  Don’t settle for neglected relationships.  Get out there, and don’t get busy.  Make an impact, instead.

 

 

Hevel during a Gran Fondo

King Solomon remains a famous figure in the world’s great religions and ancient history.  He ruled for 40 years over ancient Israel in the 9th century BC.    Of all the artifacts left behind by the man considered “the wisest man who ever lived,” are the three books of the bible that he authored.  His first book, Song of Solomon, was written when he was young and full of vigor.  He second writing, done when he was middle aged is perhaps his most famous book, the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs are, for a lack of a better word, a book of rules.  His last writing, done when he was an old man, is Ecclesiastes.  Ecclesiastes is a musing into the meaning of life and how we are to live.

It is said that Solomon had 700+ wives and uncountable concubines and blessings of wisdom and wealth from God.  In a single year of reign as king, the book of Kings reported that he collected 666 talents of Gold, or 39,960 lbs.  In 2018 dollars, that equates to more than $766M.  He had 39 additional years of wealth earning, before Solomon eventually died and his kingdom passed to his son and later collapsed.

With all this wealth in mind, very early in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon throws the reader a curve-ball, as he starts the book with the conclusion.  He says that “all the actions of man are hevel.”  Unfortunately, the ancient Hebrew word hevel doesn’t translate clearly into English.  Many bible translations bring it over as having a meaning that parallels “vanity” or “futile.”  It also means “breath” and “vapor” and Hevel was the name given to one of Adam and Eve’s children (we mispronounce it “Able” today).  Other words we could use for hevel include foolishness, absurdity and nonsense.

All the actions of man amount to foolishness, nonsense and vapor.  Why, then is this message about hevel the only thing on my mind at the start of a bike race in the North Georgia mountains?

Sure, Shakespeare quoted Ecclesiastes.  Abe Lincoln used Ecclesiastes in presidential speeches.  Authors like George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury and Earnest Hemingway all include characters and commentary directly from Ecclesiastes.   The contents of Ecclesiastes are a part of our culture.  The German philosopher Emmanuel Kant built a world view that altered the thinking of much of Europe based on the initial claims written in the first verses of Ecclesiastes.  Yet, why are these 3,000 year old words on the tip of my tongue when I am about to burn 2,500 calories an hour?

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Hevel at the start of the Georgia Gran Fondo.

I pause and look at the other riders also undertaking this event.  My son is sitting on his bike, right in front of me.  For a moment, I ponder the efforts of great athletes from other cultures, and I am struck by how unimportant all of us are and how much hevel applies to our efforts.  I couldn’t come up with the name of a single 19th century soccer star.  I couldn’t come up with the name a single swimming rock star who wasn’t also an Olympian.  With the Olympics happening only once every 4 years, many great athletes peak and miss the cycle to compete on that stage.  The efforts of athletes are forgotten, just the bumper crops of the ancient passed and the hurricanes of 100 years ago.

To get to the point, the work that I am about to do today, on my Cervelo P3 road bike, is hevel.  Sure, my cycling power is at an all-time high, but 100 years from now, I will be dead and the numbers and results I get today will be hevel.  Heck, they will be hevel within the first minute of my next training session.  So why am I even doing this?

Solomon ends his tales with a claim that the purpose of life is to learn to fear God and follow his commandments.  As I ponder this claim, a light goes on in my head.  I look at my son, sitting on his bike waiting for the race to start, and I see his scars.  I remember how he wrecked last month and how scared he is of a repeated wreck.  He is only scared because he knows what happens if he wrecks.  Without that knowledge, he has no reason to fear fast and windy descents.  Today, we will have strong cross winds, and I have told him how to handle them to prevent another episode of road rash.

I conclude that I need to tell my sons more stories of God, so they get to know who he is.  There is no chance that they can fear the Maker of the universe if they don’t know Him, just like Alex can’t fear the road without knowledge of what will happen if loses control.

I can’t tell him stories now, as the race is about to start in less than a minute.  I want to pull out my phone and record a memo.  Instead, I decide to dedicate part of the ride home to storytelling.  After all, we have a 4-hour drive once we finish this race to get home.

The pursuit of fitness has assuredly changed my life, by making me focus on improving and getting better, when others say that such things are no longer possible after reaching a certain age.  But I can conclude that my efforts are anything but hevel.  God teaches us to offer my body up as a living sacrifice, and he calls this sacrificial act our “true worship.”   Yes, it really hurts to get better and not just maintain.  But, who said pain is a justification not to get better.  Fearing the Lord includes more than just having a relationship with him.  It includes following his commandments…at least, that is the point that Solomon is making.

As the race starts, and we follow a police escort out of town, it hits me.  I more deeply understand that my results don’t matter, but my willingness to offer my body as a sacrifice, this day, as an act of worship is what I am here to do.  The act of pedaling with worshipofmy God in mind is not hevel.  The results of the event are hevel.

20180506_165439I won today.  The medal I received is hevel.   The lesson to fear God and follow his commandments is not hevel.

I heard that there are special needs organizations that accept people’s medal collections, and they use them to give to the kids for competing against each other in their own version of the Olympics.  If they can provide another person some hope and a smile, then they no longer are hevel.

I know where my medals are going one day.

And I know what I am talking about on the ride home.  Despite being a 3000-year-old message, for the first time in my life, I feel like I really get it.

What are you doing to come to terms with all of your hevel?

 

 

Failure en route to success

Nelson Mandela said, “there is no passion in playing small.”  His point was that you must take a trajectory that is outside of your current life to achieve greatness.  I committed to this behavior years ago, leaving home at an early age to go to places that no one in my family had ever been, and I traveled without even an acquaintance.  This blog is a continuation of that commitment to not playing small.

I feel a sincere drive to set the example for others to follow.  Yet, sometimes leading by example creates some intermediate failure. This story connects intermediate failure with the success that follows, if you stick it out.

20180331_090533A week before Duathlon Nationals, I signed my son and me up to compete in an organized bike ride in the foothills of the Smokies, about 2 hours from our home.  The weather was beautiful that day, and it represented our last real workout before tapering and leaving for Greenville, SC.  We were excited to get to travel to Nationals without a plane flight or a long car ride.  Greenville is about 2 hours from the house, and this bike race was the last “thing” we would do before finishing our packing and leaving a few days later.  Alex had just started his Spring Break, and he was looking forward to spending time with friends over his time off.

Alas, my son only completed 7 miles before crashing out.

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Alex Gaura, after his crash, being inspected by a paramedic for broken bones

How he crashed, I can only speculate.  I was in front, and I told him to follow me.  We both had some mechanical problems early on, so we had to stop and fix them before proceeding.  Even though we were in the back of the group for the first 10 minutes, we started passing people once we corrected our brakes/chains/power meter/heart rate monitor issues.  We did a couple of climbs with some shorter descents before entering a roadway that Alex will never forget.

A minute after reaching the bottom of the hill, I slowed down, thinking that Alex was coming any moment.  After a couple of minutes of soft pedaling, I pulled over and waited for him on a bridge over a small clear stream.  The views from the valley floor were gorgeous-trees were in full bloom, with new leaves forming on nearly all the hardwoods in the valley.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the humidity was low.  I thought, “this is what parts of heaven must be like.”

Alex never showed.  I decided that I needed to pedal back to the bottom the hill that we had descended and look for him there.  Perhaps he pulled over with another mechanical problem?  He had already pulled over once today.  Who is to say he didn’t pull over again?

At the bottom of the hill, I saw no sign of him and knew that the next step was to climb back to the top of the hill and see if he stopped on the way down.  After getting more than halfway up, I saw a couple of bikes on the side of the road, with a woman standing over the top of someone, talking on her cell phone.  As I got closer, I saw that it was Alex who was on the ground, and he wasn’t moving.  As I walked up to him and saw that he was conscious and able to talk and move, I took a moment to breathe a sigh of relief.  For sure, his clothing was torn, and he had lots of road rash on his body.  His fingertips were torn up from sliding on the asphalt, and he tried to use his hands to break his slide.  The neighbors had come out to see what all the commotion was, and everyone slowed to ask if everything was OK.  One cyclist stopped only a minute after I arrived and announced that he was a medic.  He did a once over on Alex and felt confident that he had no broken bones and needed only to be treated for road burns.

Once the support vehicle showed up and Alex was taken back to the YMCA to shower and clean up, one of the riders who had done the short course arrived and told me that he was a local doctor.  He went into the shower where Alex was cleaning up and assessed Alex’s condition. He took out his phone and called the local pharmacy, calling in a prescription for burn cream.  He sent me to get it.  The pharmacist was expecting me when I walked in, and I was in and out in less than 5 minutes.  When I got back to the YMCA, Alex was out of the shower, the doc was ready to put the cream and bandages on his wounds.

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Alex Gaura with Road Rash and a not-so-happy face

Alex walked out of the Y, got in the truck and took a serious nap to address the shock that he had been through.  Over the next couple of days, my wife and I changed his bandages and watched him begin the healing.  Thank goodness that there was no school, as he was too immobile to attend school.

He had band-aids of many of his fingertips, and his hip and knee required the biggest size non-stick pads we could find, as he slid on the asphalt until he stopped.  When he returned to school a week later, he was still wearing lots of bandages and had limited mobility.  Yet, as soon as he could, he got back on the bike and kept up his training regimen with his Coach, Glen Thompson.  He returned to swimming in the pool, and within 2 weeks, he was able to “jog” up and down the driveway.

By the end of week 3, Alex was ready to compete with his not-quite-healed body.  He competed in the White Lake Sprint Triathlon, his first open water triathlon, wearing a wet suit over some serious scabs. He had a long first transition, yanking the wetsuit off over those wounds, yet he got on the bike and covered 14 miles without any pain.  A week later, he did the Cary Duathlon Classic, a race that is harder and longer than the upcoming World Championship.  In both these races, he won his age group, handily.  No “just squeaking it out” sort of wins but he won by several minutes each time.  Tonight, he does his first-time trial of the season, yet another cycling event.  I suspect that he will break his personal record tonight, even though 4 weeks ago, he was lying in bed, nearly motionless.

As I watched Alex step up to the podium to be recognized as the winner in each event, he had a traditional smile of pride on his face that any kid would wear when he gets positive recognition.  Yet I questioned how much he “changed” from his accident.  For sure, when a person, teenager or adult, experiences a grand failure that they knew was their misdoing, the temptation is to overreact, or perhaps go so far as to quit the sport in its entirety.  I am blessed to have a son tough enough to keep fighting.

20180422_102637Last night, he told me that he feared the upcoming series of Gran Fondo bike races this weekend.  I was proud of him for confessing that he knows that his bike handling skills are not good.  That fear should help him put out extra effort to remain in control as we descend though the mountains in and around Chattanooga, TN, on Saturday and North Georgia, on Sunday.  That said, I won’t be shocked for a heart beat if he comes home with some more hardware and cool Instagram photos from success.

Or he might come home with some more scabs.  Either way, it’s all good.  Failure is a part of our trajectory.  In fact, it is the act of failing that represents the litmus test as to whether or not you are even ON a trajectory or just trying to maintain.  Trying to maintain inspires no one.  Trying to overcome adversity…now that is the stuff that stories are made.

What adversity are you trying to overcome?

 

 

Serious as a heart attack

As an athlete, I feel that I am on a journey to find ways to get better and more efficient in my training and my racing.  A clean eating and structured exercise regimen have afforded me a life where I am faster and leaner since turning 50 than I thought possible.  I feel that the mandate to “live long as prosper” from Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame has come true for me.  The onus is on me to maintain and pass along what I learn along this path.

I get and keep confidence to continue progressing by reviewing the positive aspects that science and experience teaches:  lean endurance athletes are at a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.  Yet, like a normal person, I know that there are some documented risks and side effects and consequences with my regimen.  Until this weekend, those risks got nearly none of my attention.

This weekend was the National Championships in Duathlon, in Greenville, SC.  I will soon forget the competition, but I won’t forget my friend Ed’s heart attack on race day.

One of my sons watching the race noticed Ed holding his chest on run 1 on Saturday morning.  When I passed Ed on run 2, he looked like he was in bad shape, as his eyes were rolling in his head.  After the race was over and I was talking with friends and family during recovering, my cell phone rang.  Megan from medical at USA Triathlon told me that after Ed crossed the finish line, he had been taken by ambulance to the hospital and he had told her to contact me as his emergency contact.  I met up with Megan, gathered his stuff, and created a plan to go to the hospital to see him.  I spoke with his wife on the phone, assuring her that he was in good hands.  She was in TX, and we were in SC, so she started making plans to get to here as soon as she could.

When I reached the hospital, Ed looked like a Christmas tree, with tubes, screens and lights surrounding him.  Ed had a heart attack during the race but pushed through to the finish line, as he really wanted to wear the TeamUSA logo and compete internationally next year.  Indeed, within a few minutes of arriving, he asked if I knew his time and I he made the cut.  The doctors put a stint in his heart to release the blockage via an artery in his groin immediately upon arrival in the hospital, and the darn thing wasn’t even a few hours old when I walked in.  Didn’t matter to him.  “Was I fast enough to make it?” was all that he wanted to share.

“Ed, you just hard a heart attack!  Let’s see you on the path to recovery, first!” was what came out of my mouth.  What I wanted to say was something like, “are you flipping serious?  Like, serious as a heart attack?  You could have died, Dude!”  In this one rare instance, going way out of character, I chose not to speak what was on my mind.

As an endurance athlete, I “know” just like everyone else “knows” that there is some peer reviewed research and anecdotal evidence out there that conclude excessive endurance exercise can be bad.  In one peer reviewed paper, the effects of long term endurance exercise cause a, “pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries.”  Indeed, the story of the first marathon ends with the original runner, Pheidippides, dying upon completion of the event.  The author of the book, “The Complete Book of Running,” died of a heart attack while running at age 52, and a 55-year-old mountain biker died 1 mile from the finish line of a race that he had already completed 18 times.  Until this weekend, I glazed over those events, dwelling on it long enough only to say, “not me.”  Ed was the same way.

I met Ed racing at Powerman Zofingen years ago.  Ed is short and stocky, but he has a motor that never stops.  He was always quick to say, “go USA,” when we passed each other during the race, and he is known by many for saying encouraging words to those whom he competes with, regardless of their citizenship.  He is a consummate sportsman.  He is one of those guys whom I nearly always beat but feel no shame in losing to.  Ed and his wife support my school building efforts via The Nepal Project, and they are “givers” down to their cores.  I was fearful that he was about to give his life.

I had a lot of reasons to complain about my National Championship.  Since February, I have been fighting a strain in my quads that has made it difficult to push at either the intensity or the duration I needed to reach to be competitive.  During the first race, I lost one of my cycling shoes in transition, and it took assistance from two of the refs before I found it.  My chain came off as soon as I finally got on my bike, and my rear brake rubbed throughout.  Yet, compared to Ed, I had an uneventful race.

God uses catastrophic events like this to get our attention.  When I arrived in the hospital room Ed quickly became teary eyed, as I was the first person from his previous life to see and talk to him since his life changing event.  I tried to joke with him, telling him that this was most certainly a consequence of voting for Trump.  His chuckle and subsequent cough brought a smile to both of our faces.  The world will only see the bad and perceive that events like heart attacks are random acts we can’t yet fully predict, like Earthquakes and girls and guys who break up with each other over text message.

We know that mortality catches all of us and it is highly unlikely that anyone racing this weekend will be remembered for their athletic prowess 50 years from now.  Yet, it is the power of our relationships that evoke change.  I held Ed’s hand and told him that good would come of this, I sensed a connection that would outlast this moment, in this place, surrounded by the power of science that often isolates us from our Creator.

The next day, I decided not to compete.  I told everyone that I had an achy knee (true) and that I can’t stand riding at 20+ mph in the cold (also true).  The missing part of my story was the impact that spending time Ed had on my psyche.  I did not fear a heart attack.  It was my lack of drive to compete that kept me on the sidelines. Instead, I stood on the run section of the course with my sons, cheering on my friends and encouraging them…for Ed.  That is what he would have done, had he been allowed to leave the hospital.  I watched Marcus, Rob, Randy, Mike L, Kristen and bunch of folks whom I normally compete against give it their best when their best mattered.  Yes, it was cold and I wished I was racing, but I knew I did the right thing.

When we got back home Sunday afternoon, we unpacked our gear and put everything away.  I repaired a piece of power equipment and raked our long gravel driveway, to get the pot holes out of it, and reviewed the final numbers on this year’s tax return.   After dinner, I sat on the couch and watched TV, when I got a long text from Ed.  He was beside himself with joy.  His son who had had been estranged from him for years gave him a call.  He son felt something on his heart, and he decided to call his dad and talk.  The two of them spoke on the phone, and Ed was overjoyed to tears.  Oddly enough, on Day 2, Ed was already grateful for his heart attack.

It is with both joy and satisfaction that I am passing on my TeamUSA status for 2019 and letting my slot on the team hopefully roll down to Ed.  For any of you ahead of Ed in the 50 to 54-year-old age category who considering passing on competing in Spain next year, the one who will be getting your slot will make you proud.  He will make us all proud.

Ed shared last night that his heart scans showed no damage to the heart muscle.  Ed’s wife called me.  She said he wanted to go out for a run.

When I was creating my training schedule months ago, I had put in a week off as a transition cycle before I begin building for Worlds in Denmark this July.  Before this weekend, I hesitated thinking if that was a good idea or not.  No doubt, I will take this week off from running and cycling and be grateful that I am doing so by choice and not by mandate.

Cheers to Ed and all the good that comes from a heart attack.

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Thoughts from a friend

At the core of goal setting is a deep dive into your definition of what it means to make an impact with your time and resources while you are on the Earth.  Yet, goals are viewed as an end, not a means.  Too bad that isn’t true.

To many, the goal is the end.  Google “goal setting,” and it is likely that you end up on a page that lists out specific goals, with lots of stories about the people and how they achieved them.  You’ve seen the lists.  They include items like:

  • Achieve a physical milestone-lift such and such a weight, run a distance, etc.
  • Go to the Super Bowl/World Series/Master’s, etc.
  • Have a certain number of people follow you/like you/provide dopamine hits to your brain to justify the effort put into your social presence
  • Be a guest star on Oprah (yes, I read online that someone really has that as their goal)

It takes no effort at all to realize that the act of stating your goals exposes how shallow and self-centered we humans are when it comes to defining the value of goals.

After all, the true definition of the value of a human is the impact that they make in the lives of others, one decision at a time.

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Moments before puking

One of my best friends recently resigned from a job to take a new, lesser paying job, so he would have time to execute on what he thinks is his life purpose.  My friend is an engaging teacher, who loves to share his understanding of Biblical passages and blend them with anecdotal stories from the real world.

My friend’s tools include his understanding of ancient Greek and a cumulative total of the all the mornings he has spent listening to and reading the Bible.  My friend also adds to his exposure on the topic by listening to podcasts, both related and unrelated, while working out.  He immerses himself in scripture, as a discipline, like I do with running, cycling and strength training.

But there are literally tens of millions of people with the focus and dedication of my friend.  Those efforts don’t separate him from people like you and me.  But his life experiences do.

You see, his wife left him 7 years ago, using only a hand-written note to announce her departure.  Then, she convinced their two children to have nothing to do with him.  He has been intentionally separated from his children, grandchildren and their livelihood, based only on the words of a single, mentally ill woman.  He is recently recovering from a heart attack that he knows, deep down, was preventable.  My friend was given a 3rd chance.

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My friend, at Tengboche, on the way to Everest Base Camp

When I think about what persecution means, the visualization I get includes my friend.

Yet, with all that noise, the inner voice telling him, “you need to teach,” has been loud and is only getting louder.  His choice to take less money to have more time shows his courage to follow his heart and his intuition.  Best of all, My friend remarried, and his new wife supports him completely.    My friend had to experience pain and manage it, in ways that I can only imagine.

No pain, no gain.  You have heard that before.  What is missing in that phrase is whose pain and whose gain are we talking about.   My friend has taken his personal pain and is making it into our gain.  I look forward to hearing his latest teachings.

Sharing what you have learned from your pain is, after all, how you make an impact on humanity.

What pain have you experienced that you can share?

We are all listening.